Economy
Sat, Feb 03, 2007
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Gold Bar
Self-Sufficiency Near
Poor Planning Blamed
For High Prices
Of Agro Products
Labor Law Reform Inevitable
Iran Manufactures
1st Express Train
Saipa:
$5,500 Cars Unrealistic
Production of Chinese Vehicles Opposed
Malaysia Defends Energy Deal
Colombia Seeking Energy Cooperation
Trade With Austria Growing

Gold Bar
Self-Sufficiency Near
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Some 80 domestic and foreign companies will participate in the Second International Gold and Jewelry Exhibition in Tehran during February 3-7.
TEHRAN, Feb. 2--Iran will soon become self-sufficient in gold bullions, said the vice-chairman of Gold and Jewelry Association here on Friday.
Mohammad Keshti-Arai told IRNA that given the growing production of gold bullion in the country, Iran will halt import of the product in the near future.
The official said several major gold mines, including Mouteh, are operating in Iran, adding that the national gold output is on the rise.
He further said that a number of foreign investment companies have offered to set up gold factories in Iran’s free trade zones, adding that foreign firms can also bank on the highly-specialized workforce active in Iran’s gold industry.
The official said gold prices in Iran follow international prices of the product.
Keshti-Arai said some 70,000 gold and jewelry units are operating in Iran, adding that 10,000 of them are based in Tehran.
He said some 80 domestic and foreign companies will participate in the Second International Gold and Jewelry Exhibition in Tehran during February 3-7.
With the newly discovered gold mines, Iran now ranks among the top five Asian countries which mine the precious metal.
Iran is also one of the world’s top thirty countries with gold mines whereas it ranks 58th among bullion producers.
Last month, a senior industrial official said that Iranian private sector and Indian Muslims involved in the gold business will join a government-sponsored project to open a gold and jewelry exchange in Iran.
Mohammad Hossein Bassiri, deputy minister of industries and mines, told ISNA that preliminary agreements have been reached between the Ministry of Industries and Mines, Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines and a number of Indian Muslim businessmen on the creation of a consortium to develop the national gold and jewelry industry.
He said the industry could create a large number of jobs given that it does not need huge investments.
The official further noted that once the gold and jewelry market is organized, smuggling of such products would decline sharply.
He said the government of Iran will supply 10 percent of the project’s financial requirements, adding that it will manage and supervise the consortium’s activities.
Gold exploitation activities are being conducted in 20 provinces.
Most of the gold mines are located in Kurdestan, Khorasan Razavi, South Khorasan, Sistan-Baluchestan and Isfahan provinces.

Poor Planning Blamed
For High Prices
Of Agro Products
TEHRAN, Feb. 2--Head of Iran’s Agriculture House here on Friday blamed poor planning and erroneous policies for the shortage of supply and high prices of some agricultural products, stressing that experts had already expected the situation to become critical.
Isa Kalantari, a former agriculture minister, told ISNA that the Agriculture House had predicted three months ago that potato prices would reach 10,000 rials ($1.1) per kilo as the Iranian year draws to a close in late March, adding that government officials, however, were insisting that prices would not exceed 3,000 rials.
“At present, we can clearly see that our predictions were more realistic,“ he said, adding that the same officials who used to prevent import of potato seeds have now embarked on importing tens of thousands of tons of potatoes to control market prices.
He said that large-scale potato imports should not neglect safety standards.
“The Ministry of Agriculture Jihad usually prevents import of potato seeds for quarantine-related complications, but it is now importing potatoes in very large quantities without any quarantine-related concerns,“ he said, adding that such problems arise from wrong policies made by some officials.
Kalantari said the country’s agricultural production has been largely affected by the wheat self-sufficiency scheme.
Earlier this week, Commerce Minister Massoud Mirkazemi and Minister of Agriculture Jihad Mohammad Reza Eskandari, agreed in a high-profile meeting to facilitate import of agricultural products as part of efforts to bring skyrocketing prices of consumer goods under control.
The two ministers decided in a meeting attended by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday to remove all non-tariff obstacles to the import of agricultural products.
Participants in the meeting vowed to prevent a further increase in prices of agricultural products, which have skyrocketed in recent weeks, by avoiding any move that could slow down import of such products.
They also agreed to import proportionate amounts of agricultural products, whose exports have led to a shortage of supply and increase in prices.
The commerce minister earlier this month blamed the media for fueling price hikes and exerting pressure on the manufacturing sector, stressing that adopting short-term and improper economic policies under pressure from the media would not serve national interests.

Labor Law Reform Inevitable
TEHRAN, Feb. 2--A lawmaker Friday blamed the present Labor Laws for much of the recession that has hit the manufacturing sector in recent years, stressing that amending the Labor Laws is inevitable under the circumstances.
Morteza Tamaddon, a member of the Majlis Plan, Budget and Audit Commission, told Moj that the Labor Laws have also endangered job security and aggravated unemployment.
The MP further noted that if the Labor Laws are not amended, both the workers and the employers will continue to suffer and the national economy will be at stake.
He blamed the current Labor Laws for the tensions between workers and employers, adding that they have failed to address challenges facing contractual workers.
Tamaddon said the parliamentary initiative to remove the manufacturing sector’s challenges will help boost job security of contractual workers. He did not elaborate.
The lawmaker’s remarks come two days after Fars reported that Majlis Industries and Mines Commission has delegated the task of deciding on the controversial part of a parliamentary ratification to ’remove the barriers to manufacturing sector’ to the government.
The commission has preferred to let the government decide about the ’interaction between the employers and the employees’, which is a core issue in the parliamentary initiative to improve the manufacturing sector.
Under Article 27 of the parliamentary ratification, employers would be able to fire workers with far less trouble. Workers who fail to fulfill their duties or violate the workplace’s disciplinary code could be sacked upon payment of one month salary at the rate of their last wage for each year they have worked there.
An outspoken lawmaker has criticized the plan noting that the said move would strengthen the hands of employers to fire their workforce.
Alireza Mahjoub, a lawmaker and secretary general of Iran Labor House, told reporters that the already fragile job security will be put at stake, once the parliamentary plan becomes a law. He said that the initiative would reverse the worker community’s 40-year campaign against arbitrary expulsions.
After nearly four decades of efforts, workers eventually managed to end trouble-free expulsions, he said, adding that the parliamentary move has just arrived to ruin things.
He said such moves would only increase tension between workers and their employers.

Iran Manufactures
1st Express Train
ARAK, Markazi,
Feb. 2--An Iranian company has manufactured the country’s first intercity express train.
Announcing this, Javad Taher-Afshar, managing director of Arak Pars Wagon Company, told IRNA on Thursday that the firm has built the train upon the order of Raja rail transport company.
“This train has four cars and is equipped with advanced safety equipment,“ he said, adding that the first Iran-made express train runs at a speed of 160 kilometers per hour.
He said the 252-seat train will operate on the Tehran-Mashhad and Mashhad-Zanjan routes, adding that it is equipped with the world’s latest technologies.
He further noted that the company is capable of manufacturing six such trains per annum.
The official said the second train is now being tested and that a third one is being assembled.
Iran is planning to develop its rail transport sector following growing criticisms of the aviation industry in the wake of a remarkable increase in the number of deadly air crashes in recent years.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, the Iran Power Plant Projects Management (Mapna) and Germany’s Siemens have signed a contract for constructing 150 locomotives for passenger trains.
Under the contract, the German company is committed to export to Iran some 30 locomotives in the first phase and manufacture another 120 using domestic capacities and expertise over the next six years.
Moussa Zaman, managing director of Mapna Group, said the foreign party has also undertaken to transfer the locomotive manufacturing technologies to the Iranian side over a 10-year period.
The new locomotives reportedly produce lower emissions, save power and steam and run at a speed of above 160 kilometers per hour, he said.
Zaman further said that the project is worth 450 million euros, of which the Iranian side is expected to provide 150 million euros and the German side will supply the rest of the project’s financial requirements.

Saipa:
$5,500 Cars Unrealistic
Production of Chinese Vehicles Opposed
TEHRAN, Feb. 2--A senior automotive industry official said here on Friday that the much-publicized 50-million-rial ($5,500) budget cars will never be manufactured in Iran unless substandard Chinese cars are imported with zero tariffs.
Ahmad Qalebani, managing director of Iran’s second largest carmaker, Saipa, told Moj that his company is not planning to enter into any project that would seek to manufacture Chinese cars in Iran.
“We (at Saipa) do not believe in Chinese cars and rejected an offer three years ago to manufacture the same models that we can see on the country’s streets today,“ he said, adding that the giant auto manufacturing group, which assembles several Citroen Xantia, Kia Pride, Kia Rio, Nissan Maxima and Nissan Roniz models, has disapproved of the substandard quality of Chinese cars.
The Iranian government has tried in recent years to come up with a formula based on which all average Iranian families can purchase domestically-manufactured cars.
Cars sell at some of the world’s highest prices here with some late 1980s models of Peugeot and 1990s models of Citroen and Nissan selling between 14,000 to 40,000 US dollars. In November, a senior industrial official said the government is planning to manufacture budget cars for low income citizens, stressing that Renault L90 cars, which will hit the market next year, will have a price tag of 80-100 million rials (8,800-11,000 US dollars).
Mehdi Mofidi, who heads Iran’s Industrial Development and Renovation Organization (IDRO), further said during a tour of L90 production line at the joint Iran Khodro-Pars Khodro plant in Tehran that talks are underway with China for the production of $6,600 cars, stressing that customers should not expect such a car to offer all the options.
He said that L90, which has been introduced here as a budget car, could be considered inexpensive in that it is a modern car which is to be sold at a low price compared to other cars available on the domestic market.
Iran is one of the fastest growing auto markets in the region. Major carmakers Iran Khodro and Saipa manufacture a million cars a year.

Malaysia Defends Energy Deal
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Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Feb. 2--Malaysia vowed on Friday not to buckle to any pressure from its biggest trading partner, the United States, to break a deal with Iran or risk losing a free trade pact.
US trade officials said on Thursday they were reviewing a lawmaker’s request for the United States to cut off free trade talks with Kuala Lumpur in protest over Malaysia’s $16-billion energy development deal with Iran, Reuters reported.
House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, raised concerns over the deal signed last month between Malaysia’s SKS Group and state-owned National Iranian Oil Company to develop Iran’s southern Golshan and Ferdows gas fields and build plants to produce liquefied natural gas.
On Friday, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Malaysia would not bow to pressure from the United States over the deal in negotiations for the free trade agreement.
“We reject the pressure being inflicted upon us. We are a sovereign country and have our own stand,“ state news agency Bernama quoted Abdullah as telling reporters.
The United States and Malaysia began talks in June last year and have scheduled a fifth round on the proposed free trade pact this month. US negotiators have been under pressure to reach a deal by the end of March, but difficult issues remain.
Malaysia’s trade ministry said in a statement it was prepared to continue with the talks, but wanted the US administration to make its official stand known so that the Southeast Asian country could decide on the future of negotiations.
“Malaysia reiterates that the negotiations cannot be held hostage to any political demand, and cannot be conducted under such threats,“ the ministry said. “Malaysia is also ready to suspend negotiations if the situation warrants it.“
Abdullah said Washington had no right to stop Malaysia from forging trade ties with any country, even after it had concluded a free trade agreement with the United States.
The two countries had two-way trade in 2005 of $44 billion.

Colombia Seeking Energy Cooperation
BOGOTA, Colombia, Feb. 2--Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe called on Iran to contribute to economic projects in his country notably in the oil, gas and energy sectors.
Uribe, who was receiving the credentials of Iran’s new ambassador in Bogota, Ahmad Pabarja on Thursday, said Iran is a big country with a long history, culture and civilization and he is keen to witness expansion of bilateral cooperation in various fields including economic and cultural affairs, IRNA reported.
He hoped that during the tenure of Iran’s new ambassador, relations with Iran will be strengthened and expanded in all fields. Uribe called on Iranian companies to play an active role in the Colombian market and economic projects.
Iranian ambassador said that reopening of Iranian embassy in Bogota is indicative of Tehran’s clear will to boost two-way relations. Pabarja referred to the important position of the Latin America in Iran’s foreign policy and promised to do his best to upgrade relations.
Pabarja told the Colombian president that high ranking Iranian officials are very interested in broadening cooperation with Colombia.
Pabarja has worked in economic sectors of Iranian embassies in London and Germany and has been director of the economic cooperation department in Iran’s Foreign Ministry.

Trade With Austria Growing
VIENNA, Austria, Feb. 2--An Austrian official here on Thursday described his country’s relations with Iran as ’very friendly’.
Head of the Economic Relations of South and Southeastern Asia in Austria Chamber of Commerce Reinhardt Ziemmerman told IRNA that Iran is considered one of the most important economic partners of the country in the South and Southeastern Asia.
“Iran was the first partner of Austria until 2005 in terms of commercial exchanges,“ he added.
Pointing to the healthy commercial relations between Iran and Austria and Tehran’s willingness to access modern technologies, he noted that the volume of trade exchanges shows a five percent decrease in 2006 compared to the figure for the previous year.
Ziemmerman referred to the political conditions of the region as the major cause of the aforementioned decrease, saying that political situation have always affected economic and commercial ties among countries.
Austrian export to Iran stood at 402 million euro in 2005, and its import from the Islamic Republic including oil and its derivatives was 189 million euro during the same period, he said.
However, the figure dropped to 281 and 70 million euro respectively in 2006, he noted.
Referring to the cancellation of an economic agreement between the railways companies of Iran and Austria, he said that the two countries will continue their friendly economic and political relations.
Touching on a seminar on Kyoto Protocol to be held in Tehran on February 19, he added that Austria will eagerly participate in the seminar to present its experiences in various technological fields.